Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Nature Cure

Several news items caught my eye this week, from VS Naipul's absurd rant about the inferiority of women writers, to the surprising revelation that there is a sub-genre of porn films based on Star Trek:

An impressive attention to detail, but those badges don't look quite right

However, the story that interested me most concerned the publication of a new independent report about the financial value of nature. According to the 'UK National Ecosystem Assessment', nature is worth £50 billion and the health benefit of living close to a green landscape is £300 per person per year.

Of course, that's putting it very crudely. This report is a complex survey that involved hundreds of scientists, but newspapers need headlines and 'Nature worth £50billion to Britain's economy' has to compete with the latest update on Ryan Giggs' love life.

I thought about this report yesterday, when I took my sons to the Lewes Railway Land project - a nature reserve created out of waste ground that used to be railway sidings. Twenty years ago, there was talk of turning the land into a retail park, with space for several hundred cars. In Crawley they would have had the JVCs out before the ink was dry on the contract, but in Lewes it was a different story.

Here's what could have been the 873rd branch of Sainbury's:

Hopefully there will be fewer retail parks in the future and more places like this.

The other benefit of going to the Railway Land is that it was completely free. My sons spent a couple of hours having far more fun than they would have done manically charging around a softplay centre, bouncing off the walls.

As we left I congratulated myself for not spending any money. But then I went and completely blew it by visiting the Lewes farmers' market.

That was a big mistake:


Martin H. said...

I'm not surprised that you treasure the Lewes Railway Land project. What a great place for children to be children.

I almost took a part-time job with an organic veg company that also hosted regular 'farmer's markets'. The pay and conditions were pitiful. After showing me around, the owner pointed out the huge mansion she was in the process of restoring for herself, in spite of bending my ear about returning to the simple life. Hmmm...

Thomas at My Porch said...

Amazing what nature can do if we get out of the way.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Tescos and Sainsburys are running amok at the moment trying to cover every square inch of Oxford in branches. Nobody seems to be stopping them. Thank goodness for the common sense of the denizens of Lewes in saying when enough is enough!

I will only succumb to Farmer's Market produce if it is incredibly special and I can't get it elsewhere. I have no idea why they are so expensive in view of their low overheads.


Free days out in the great outdoors with the children are always best. Just what DID people spend their money on before retail parks and supermarkets took over? Getting fat and living on credit are such great ways to fuel the economy, it would seem.
At least there are some places in Britain trying to balance things out. Not here, yet another supermarket wins the bid for a large expanse of potentially beautiful land.
Two friends of mine are making a killing selling jams and chutneys on the farmer's market scene, good luck to them. I find myself only buying from people who seem 'nice' and deserving. This often means I'm locked in lengthy small-talk sessions, almost interview style. I'm so sorry I have waffled on, I'm rather bored this evening.

Gardener in the Distance said...

Glad you and your boys had such an enlivening time at Lewes. If you don't already know about it, Steerforth, there's an amazing, elevated railway line garden in New York called The High Line...view it at

Anonymous said...

One of the most wonderful spots we've ever found was discovered by accident a couple of weeks ago: The Ashridge Estate, near Berkhamstead. It now belongs to the National Trust and is open to the public free of charge. It's a wonderful place, with hundreds of acres of forests and trails and open spaces. A great favourite with local hikers and dog walkers. There's a small Nat. Trust cafe there which serves wonderful steak and kidney pies. There's even adequate parking. I wish we coiuld have spent longer there. Truly a breath of fresh air -- no pun intended! Canadian Chickadee

Steerforth said...

Martin - That's an interesting anecdote about the organic veg woman. I've often wondered about truly how committed many sellers are to the ethos of organic farming, or whether they've just spotted a gap in the (farmers) market.

Thomas - I'm really encouraged by just how quickly nature can reassert itself.

Laura - Apparently food prices are going to double in the next ten years, so I wonder if this will narrow the gaps between the supermarkets and the farmers' markets?

Lucewoman - I just hope that the recession will make retail parks a less attractive proposition for investors. We don't need any more, but cities and towns are crying out for place where children can play.

Gardener - Yes, I have read about the elevated railway line in New York - one of the most inspiring urban projects I've come across in recent years.

Chickadee - I've just looked at the website for the Ashridge Estate. I'd never heard of it, but it looks beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I made the mistake of seeing the 1974 sexy spoof 'Flesh Gordon' as a student many years ago. While not quite porn, it is a cult movie, but my overriding memory of it was yawn. The idea of Star Trek porn makes me shudder (except for a mind meld with Spock perhaps?).

Having rambled about the top of your post, I'm glad you had a nice day out at the bottom.

bopyoke said...

Love the videos, and your blog!

Sam Jordison said...

The Lewes Railway Land project sounds great. What a splendidly middle class weekend too. (Star trek porn aside... middle class porn has to have sub-titles and masquerade as arthouse...)